90 Percent of Residents Favor Reef Protections from Aquarium Trade
According to a new poll conducted statewide, ninety percent of local residents support a bill that will regulate the aquarium trade by implementing sustainability measures and placing caps on permits to capture Hawai‘i reef wildlife for aquariums.
The bill, SB1240, passed the state legislature and is now awaiting Gov. David Ige’s signature to become law.
The poll surveyed 476 Hawai‘i residents, revealing strong support for ending the practice of capturing reef wildlife for aquariums entirely. A similar poll conducted five years ago showed 66 percent of residents supported ending the aquarium trade in Hawai‘i. The latest poll shows public support for ending the trade is up to 83 percent.
“These poll results confirm what humane, marine, environmental and native Hawaiian groups have long conveyed to state elected officials: The commercial collection of Hawai‘i’s cherished reef wildlife is not supported by the vast majority of Hawai‘i’s residents,” said Keith Dane, Hawai‘i policy advisor for The HSUS. “This natural resource belongs to us all, but the aquarium trade only benefits a relative handful of Hawai‘i residents and a much larger number of outside interests.”
The poll was conducted by Honolulu-based QMark Research and commissioned by For the Fishes, The Humane Society of the United States (The HSUS) and its international arm, Humane Society International.
Much of the concern over the aquarium trade stems from environmental impacts. In 2014 and 2015, Hawai‘i experienced unprecedented coral bleaching and subsequent coral die-offs. Healthy reef wildlife populations are crucial to maintaining reefs to keep algae overgrowth at bay on recovering corals, according to The HSUS. Parrotfish and surgeonfish are said to be particularly important for this reason.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) recently released a Coral Bleaching Recovery Plan in response to the unprecedented die-off of Hawai‘i reefs. The plan identifies herbivore management as “critical to post-bleaching coral recovery in Hawai‘i.”
The HSUS said the herbivores most frequently captured for aquariums are yellow tangs and kole, which account for at least 93 percent of all fish that are captured and sold in the aquarium trade.
Despite being a fraction of the size of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, nearly three times more fish are taken from Hawai‘i’s reefs. Hawai‘i is the world’s third-largest supplier of reef wildlife to the U.S. aquarium trade, according to The HSUS.
“Hawai‘i residents are obviously well-informed, solution-oriented, and counting on Governor Ige to do the right thing,” said Rene Umberger, executive director of For the Fishes. “Experts agree that herbivore populations are key to coral reef health, and it’s no coincidence that the herbivores taken for aquariums are missing from our reefs by the millions. SB1240 recognizes the true value of this marine life and we hope the Governor will heed the wishes of his constituents and sign this important legislation.”